Using social media marketing in times of tragedy
Posted: Wednesday, May 15, 2013 12:00 am
By MARSHA FRIEDMAN
Special to The Press
If you’re using social media for marketing, what should you say following a tragedy like the deadly blasts at the Boston Marathon on April 15?
Sometimes, nothing at all.
The age of digital marketing brings with it new challenges, including how to respond during a national tragedy. Remember, as recently as Sept. 11, 2001, we had no MySpace, much less Facebook, Twitter or YouTube. Except for email, no vehicle for delivering instantaneous marketing messages existed. After 9/11, one of the most painful days in American memory, most of us had time to pause, reflect and put on hold print, radio and TV marketing campaigns that might be viewed as inappropriate or offensive.
Here are a couple more suggestions for do’s and don’ts:
• If you use automated posts scheduled through a site such as HootSuite, turn them off immediately. If people don’t find them insensitive and uncaring or silly, they’ll likely conclude your messages come from a robot – not a real person – which is just as bad.
• Can you be helpful? Hours after the blasts in Boston, with cell phone service out in the city and family and friends desperately trying to connect with loved ones, Google.org launched “Person Finder: Boston Marathon Explosions.” There, individuals and organizations could share information about the status of marathon participants and spectators for those trying to find them.
If your community has suffered a tragic event, perhaps you have helpful information to share. Depending on your area of expertise, you may be able to provide more general information or commentary. For instance, an educator can share tips for answering children’s questions about the event. Philanthropists might comment on those selflessly step up to help.
• Of course, social media is also about reactions and, for many, that’s a sincere expression of sympathy for and unity with those affected.
If you want to post something and you’re unsure about what to say, take a look at what businesses and other brands are sharing, and how online users are reacting. You may decide to just say nothing for a day or two, or whatever time seems reasonable given the nature of the event.
Sometimes, saying nothing at all speaks volumes.
Marsha Friedman is a 23-year veteran of the public relations industry.
Published in The WCP 5.14.13